Earth Yoga

Via on Apr 22, 2010

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We are earth yogis with earthly challenges.

After a particularly mindblowing practice during a week of Mysore yoga mornings at Yogaview in Chicago with Petri Raisanen (after some years focusing on Iyengar Yoga which had followed years practicing Ashtanga) I thought that anybody who dismisses or talks poorly about another system of yoga simply has not done enough of it. I have had incredible experiences in Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, and Kripalu (Heck, I got a lot out of ‘Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan’, back in the day…). So what gives? It makes me wonder about the mentality of yogis who want to structure their experience in an exclusive way. Why must my yoga be better than your yoga? To really grow as human beings, and be better yogis maybe we need to try one another’s yoga.

To stay with a system of yoga, going deeper and deeper has the potential benefits of knowing self, ecstatic states, and spiritual subtleties. But it could be like the first time you connected sexually with someone (just let me try this out), you might have associated that incredible bliss with a particular individual. Life goes on and perhaps that first relationship doesn’t work out. Then you realize that you might have it with others, too. Some are better. Some are worse. But when you associate it with one person and your mind is stuck remembering the past that is delusion. The danger in keeping it (when the “it” is yoga practice) to one teacher or yoga style right now is based on my belief that we need to connect better with each other here, on the planet, which could mean bringing the spiritual experience out of an exclusive arena where we connect it with one style of yoga or one teacher. Maybe it’s time to branch out to understand one another across beliefs, and across yoga styles.

When we associate the precious, sacred, totally beyond words experience of yoga with one style or teacher it can be harmful socially when we channel our reverence into a mentality that separates us from other yogis who practice with other teachers in other styles of yoga. It makes sense that we would want to protect ourselves, but what is the cost? Doesn’t this pattern of thought and behavior reflect the divisiveness that can be seen amongst sports fans of different teams, or members of different religious groups, or citizens of different countries, etc? Should we allow the yoga we practice be another reason to shun people who we conceptualize as being “different” in some seemingly important intangible way? Is this really an important difference?

I see an earth translation of yoga as bringing more friendliness and care across peoples, rather than another reason for seeing difference. And I think that we desperately need to find a greater sense of union between all people.

Traditionally yoga practice offers techniques for uniting the individual sense of yourself with a larger sense of your Self, profound connection, oneness beyond description. Yes! Good… A yogi might need to practice with a particular yoga tradition and/or teacher for a while to perhaps be blessed with this realization. How we go forward from here is actually what I’m considering in this post. Certainly you might need the safety of certain parameters (like: a particular teacher, style, or tradition) to develop on your path. But don’t get confused and think that the way you did it is the only way that others might do it. That most certainly is absurd. Your path is only right for you, just as my path is only right for me.

In the sea of all of our differences how can we resonate with our common needs? How can we align less with personal selfishness, and become more motivated to work towards common goals like a more friendly world, and care about the effects our actions have on the global environment? How can we bring our tastes of beauty and connection from yoga practice into meaningful compassionate actions towards others, ourselves and our Earth?

(Article provided, compliments of Yogic Muse…)

About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.

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17 Responses to “Earth Yoga”

  1. [...] Earth Yoga with Brooks [...]

  2. angus says:

    On one level I see what you are talking about with being slow to judge and considering alternate perspectives…

    But, the metaphor you use, intimate relationships, is not a fair one. A more accurate metaphor would be to compare yoga to the study of physics. There is newtonian physics, and there are more modern schools that go deeper into reality. But, there is an important and discernible difference between the different schools of physics. Either they are based on facts and good reason, or they are not.

    There are schools of “yoga” that really are not based on true observation or reason. They are really just schemes to make money by copying bits and pieces from previous schools of thought, and then adding a little pop-culture pseudo philosophy and marketing. I have heard the most ridiculous statements that are completely false and physical dangerous made in some classes.

    So, I would suggest that, it is good to consider other ways of looking at things, but in a reasonable and thoughtful way, not in a “accept everything” way. Hope that made sense :)

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      angus: It sounds like you might be a Jnana Yogi–one who pursues reality through knowledge, as in a "theoretical or practical understanding of a subject". I respect this.

      However–yogically speaking–what I am talking about in the article is reality as it is perceived through the cells of my body during the physical practice of yoga postures. So, for me, the comparison with sex really works… I would say that yoga is experienced directly, without the intermediary of thought. We can just think about it and talk about it later…

  3. Lisa B. says:

    I think the sexual bliss metaphor is great! It is possible to have decent sex with someone that is phony, pretentious and just plain, not good for you. Hopefully we live and learn and find a partner (and yoga practice) that is honest, healthy and worthy of our devotion. Sometimes it takes a bad experience to recognize a good one. It’s all out there for a reason ;)

  4. Greg says:

    Not sure the sexual bliss analogy totally captures the essence of the argument, which may be even more profound in pointing out that we need to be open to new practices while also continuing to discern the benefits we accrue at any one moment. Then again, maybe I am too old to comment wisely on sexual matters.

    It is worth noting that when I hiked the mountains pictured above, years ago, i never encountered anyone in a warrior pose. So it appears conditions have improved with the multitude of practices available.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Greg: I think you're right! Discerning where we are at any given time is crucial for the yogic journey. It goes way beyond the rather simple metaphor I chose for this article.

  5. EcoYogini says:

    I dunno Brooks, I do like your metaphor, sometimes the simplest ones are what can help begin the process in analyzing or considering a more complex issue. :) Also, the simpler the analogy, the more likely it will be universally appreciated and understood. :)

  6. Padma Kadag says:

    It seems that the "branching out " is already taking place. That individuals already are trying other "schools" of yoga by branching out. But I am not sure that is a good thing. I can say from my experience that people, first of all, have a short attention span and so they "branch out" out of boredom, secondly, yoga as it was first practiced in India, and still practiced to some degree, required/s guru devotion, which really is not understood here on that same level. Faith in your guru developed with faith through accomplishment of your yoga. With faith comes love and compassion. Why would anyone need any other yoga or practice if this was the result? If we are really being more compassionate toward others from our yoga…then why change? Or maybe individuals are not really getting the results they had expected or their motivation for doing yoga has nothing to do with selflessness. Selflessness is not easy. I

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      Yes, Padma, the way we practice yoga is very different from the way yoga was traditionally taught in India. American culture is processing yoga technique, and I can’t say what will happen in the future. But it does seem that we have brought some of our competitive, marketplace-style thinking to the yoga. And I think that certain aspects of that might be getting in the way of our spiritual development.

      • Padma Kadag says:

        Yes,definately, the marketplace is the yoga these days. I am skeptical that the future can correctly reinvigorate the guru/devotee relationship. First, a stainless guru must be found…then a worthy student. I am concerned that we are very comfortable with our practices we find in the marketplace to the point where we are thinking we are "being" loving and compassionate and expressing that verbally. Are we really able to accomplish a yogic life in the authentic sense? Or are we playing "house"? Is Love and compassion mere catch phrases? What are we really accomplishing?

  7. Carrie says:

    I always enjoy your blog

  8. Eric says:

    :: What is your ultimate intention for this short and precious life? :: Once you can answer this, then check your immediate intentions: yoga, sex, eating, doing the dishes, shopping, blogging/commenting on a blog, etc. and see if your mind and heart are reflecting your ultimate intention in the practice of living each moment…"oneness beyond description".

    As Padma said, not easy.

  9. Ram Godar says:

    One must always remember that Yoga is one and Unique though the forms and styles are different. Yoga is like an ocean and the different forms and styles you mentioned are like the rivers that unite with the ocean. Ultimately all forms and styles of yoga leads to one goal that is physical health and mental bliss.

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